BARCELONA boss Ronald Koeman admits he could be sacked after shock Benfica defeat but believes the players are still behind him.
The Catalan club’s hopes of progressing in the Champions League are now in serious doubt after they were beaten 3-0 last night by Benfica, their second defeat in a row by this margin.
They were dismantled by Bayern Munich in another humiliating 3-0 defeat just two weeks ago, leaving their chances of making the last 16 hanging by a thread.
Barcelona-based sports paper Mundo Deportivo compared Koeman, 58, to a boxer ‘against the ropes’ and claimed that the Dutchman is under ‘serious pressure’ from president Joan Laporta.
Meanwhile, Marca called last night’s result a ‘total disaster’ on their front page and suggested Koeman’s future is now ‘in more doubt than ever’.
Spanish sports paper Diario AS simply had a picture of the Dutchman looking defeated in his technical area with the word ‘SUNK’ spread across their front page.
Speaking candidly after the loss, Koeman said: “The result is hard to take.
“I don’t think it’s a fair reflection. After conceding so early we responded well but we couldn’t score.
“They are very quick and strong. There are a lot of teams stronger than us. This is not the team of years gone by. It’s crystal clear.”
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The five-time Champions League winners have lost their opening two matches in the competition for the first time since it began and will likely have to win all of their remaining matches to progress.
The last time Barcelona did not advance from the Champions League group stages was in 2001, when they finished third behind Leeds United and AC Milan.
Despite the criticism he has come under for his team’s recent poor performances, Koeman told the media: “I feel the players are behind me.”
Koeman’s fellow Dutchman Frenkie de Jong was asked post-match if he felt replacing the manager was the answer to Barcelona’s problems, to which he responded “no”.
He added: “I still have faith that we can go through. We have to win our remaining games. We have lost the first two games.”
The former Everton manager may have the loyalty of his players, but when asked if he believes the board are still behind him, he responded: “I don’t know.”
Next month’s international break could present an ideal opportunity for club president Joan Laporta to replace Koeman, with Belgium manager Roberto Martinez and Barca legend Xavi both reportedly in the running.
But the club’s well publicised financial problems could prevent them from making the change, with Koeman reportedly due around £10.4million (€12m) in compensation should he be sacked.
‘WE ARE IN A CRITICAL SITUATION’
The Spanish giants managed no shots on target for the second consecutive Champions League game, but the 26-time Spanish champions have not struggled in front of goal in the league.
Barca are unbeaten in LaLiga, having scored 11 goals in their six LaLiga games so far, with a game in hand on rivals Real and Atletico Madrid.
Koeman will again be in the spotlight as his side take on reigning league champions Atletico at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday night, in what could be a make or break game for the Dutchman.
But Barca captain Sergio Busquets, 33, defended his manager after last night’s match and claimed the players are also responsible for the club’s poor results:
“The easiest thing in the world of football is (to change manager), but the responsibilities also belong to the players, ourselves. We are in a critical situation.”
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